Ora et labora (leather): sandals by La Garde monks are booming

Ora et labora, i monaci di La Garde fanno i sandali in cuoio

Raw material they use to make them is high quality. Hands forging them long for holiness. Sandals, manufactured by Benedictine monks, from La Garde monastery, are enjoying an incredible international success. The monastery is located in Saint Pierre de Clairac, a small village, 850 inhabitants, situated in the region of New Acquitaine (France). Friars create – and make use of – simple yet comfortable shoes, which are getting very popular even in Japan.

Patience and durability

NouvelObs, a French daily newspaper, wrote a report over the journey inside the monastery laboratory, together with a few monks. Friars say, “When we wear sandals, on the very first days, they are not that comfortable as they are rather stiff; yet, shortly after, leather gets soft, and sandals turn out to be very comfortable in the end”. When they are not attending the religious functions, a number of monks, on a rota, work with machinery, covered with leather fragrance and holy images. One cuts raw hides, one stitches and someone else glues soles. Bovine leather comes from a tannery, based in Pau, which buys hides in Europe, while Vibram rubber soles come from Italy. “We do not make use of Chinese leather because of traceability issues”, emphasizes Father Hubert, the monastery treasurer.

A nearly 20-year-old story

While speaking to NouvelObs, friars report they started their small activity in 2002 “to give their community the opportunity to live according to Saint Benedict’s principles”. Then, over the years, they received some external orders. In the meantime, monks have been developing three different models: classic Benedict, Scholastic, a women’s variation, and finally Hildegard, slightly more refined. Every year, Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux abbey sells 1,200 pairs of sandals: at this point, it is difficult to meet such a growing demand. In compliance, of course, with the “Ora et labora” principle.

Pictures taken from la-garde.org

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